What if God knows Prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, and our endless need — the need of Himself? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer. So begins a communion, talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer. — George MacDonald
Colossians 1: 9
Hank was my friend. I didn’t know him lifelong like his family; or marriage long like Sue; or classmate long like those in ’59, but, I was fortunate to know him long enough that he became one of the few that I totally respected and trusted. I’d like to share a little of the backstory on how that acme to be.
Over the years I have been privileged to meet a couple of presidents, and some heroes of the highest order. I think Hank possessed many of their attributes, if not history’s opportunity. He was a very complex and courageous friend. A friend who was first and foremost a naval captain, of the old school.
I say old school with highest respect. In your program there is a famous compilation from the letters of John Paul Jones, known as the “Qualifications of a Naval Officer.” He wrote:
It is by no means enough that an officer of the navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that of course, but also a great deal more, he should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy and the nicest sense of personal honor.
Hank was all of that. His education ran from near the top of his class at the academy, to the navy’s most demanding nuclear power programs. To teaching mathematics at MIT. All who knew him would agree to his manners and courtesy.
In 1778, while trying to obtain a ship from the French government, in order to fight the British, Captain Jones wrote:
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
Hank’s ship sailed fast, and went in harm’s way. She was the USS Nathan Hale, SSBN-623. The ‘SS’ indicated a submarine, the ‘B’ was for one armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the ‘N’ said she was nuclear powered. I mentioned her name and hull number not because she and her crew were Hank’s command, but because they were his love. Arguably, she was the world’s most powerful warship. Should the USSR have done something terminally stupid, Nathan Hale could have turned the kremlin into a glow in the dark sandbox. On more days than we know, we lived free; on more nights than we knew, we slept soundly. Should our children have ever learned Russian, it would have been by their choice, not that of a commissar. These are facts. Facts, because somewhere in the ocean’s depths, Hank was on station. For these things we owe Hank.
Many here had mentors. I was usually too stiff necked to listen to mine. But, on the plus side of 70, I responded to one. It was when Hank Got me through the doors of Bay Presbyterian Church and introduced me to the Rev. John Anderson, and then John introduced me to the Bible. For all of this, I owe Hank, forever.
In a stained glass window in the Naval Academy Chapel, there is an excerpt from the 107th Psalm. “They that go down to the sea in ships, they wee the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep”
From the beginning, Hank’s life was to go to sea, and to see the wonders in the deep. Not on the surgace, as most would, but at depths few have known.
Just one last entry from my Hank log. One morning we were waiting for John’s zero dark 30 Bible class to begin. Hank’s walker was against the wall, and he only had a little voice left. Quietly, he asked, “You know what makes me Happy?” I shrugged: He was pointing at the brace on his let, had the biggest smile and said, “That I found my Lord , before all this happened.” In your program, “The qualifications of a naval officer should have . . . The nicest sense of personal honor.” To me, “ . . . that I found my Lord, before all this happened,” was the nicest sense of personal honor that I have ever encountered.
God speed Captain. Safe anchorage, eternally!.
“I am a creature of the day passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God. I want to know one thing – the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O Give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Le me be homo units libri [a man of one book]. I sit down alone. Only God is here.” –John Wesley
147 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the Lord!